By Zaira Solomons
Our 3-day visit from our South African colleagues from both Walter Sisulu and Stellenbosch Universities for a formal partner collaboration event funded through the British Council, South Africa has been very successful. On Sunday evening, partners were greeted at their hotels and transported for an informal dinner to get acquainted with Coventry city and to establish face-to-face connections with host partners from Coventry University. The following day, Monday, was jam packed with a series of formal meetings between all three partners, which included strategic planning, identification of strengths and weaknesses and ways to capitalise and harness each other’s potential. Also, partner colleagues were given a tour of Coventry University campus and introduced to both our SIGMA centre, which was set up to provide mathematics and statistics support for students and staff. Prof. Duncan Lawson addressed colleagues on the inception and history of the SIGMA centre and also highlighted the significance of maths and stats support since students in the UK often enter higher education lacking such critical skills. Another key feature of this day was a talk hosted by Dr Dimitar Angelov from the Centre for Academic Writing CAW which provides academic writing guidance and support for all postgraduate students and staff, including assistance with publication content. In addition, a focus group session was conducted with PhD supervisors to ascertain insights into drivers and enablers responsible for student successes, led by Dr Heather Sears from the Coventry University’s Doctoral College. This day concluded with a formal dinner hosted by Prof. Lynn Clouder, Academic Director, Centre for Global Learning, Education and Attainment (GLEA).
[Left; Prof Lynn Clouder; Centre left: Dr Ferdie Gerber; Far left: Dr Kieran Fenby-Hulse; Right: Prof Nolutho Diko; Near Right: Zaira Solomons; Centre Right: Prof Christina Hughes; Far right: Prof Peter Rule]
Tuesday commenced with an interactive colloquium which encompassed themes of South-North collaboration and best practices. We were all welcomed and introduced by Prof. Katherine Wimpenny from GLEA. This day allowed us to learn from each other and to engage in matters surrounding PhD pedagogics. Also, insights were gained for PhD supervisor capacity building and mechanisms employed to enhance doctoral support strategies for successful attainment and completion directed towards academic staff were high on the agenda. Prof. Nolutho Diko from Walter Sisulu University facilitated an engaging discussion on South-North Collaboration with a key focus on PhD study. Dr Rebekah Smith McGloin from the Doctoral College gave an inspiring talk on ‘The implications of doctoral mobility for doctoral programme design and supervision’. This was followed by a stimulating presentation by Prof. Peter Rule of Stellenbosch University on ‘Postgraduate supervision as dialogic space in the nexus of the global and the local’. We were also joined for a panel discussion by Doctoral student/staff members and newly completed PhD staff members sharing their individual accounts of factors which influenced and prompted their decision to undertake doctoral studies, facilitated by Dr Ferdie Gerber from Walter Sisulu University. We were also privileged to be joined by distinguished and honourable guests, including Coventry University’s visiting Professors Gus John and Malcolm Tight, both of whom are highly respected in their fields. Also, academics from the Open University and Wolverhampton University were present, as were GLEA staff members and doctoral students. The day concluded with closing comments by Prof. Wimpenny. Partner colleagues were hosted to a scrumptious dinner.
[Right: Dr Heather Sears; Centre: Prof Nolutho Diko; Far Right: Prof Peter Rule; Far left: Prof Katherine Wimpenny; Centre: Dr Ferdie Gerber; Left Zaira Solomons]
[Left: Annette Hay; Near left: Peter Harrison; Centre: Samena Rashid; Centre left: Dr Nicholas Peters; Far Left: Dr Alun DeWinter]
On Wednesday, we started the day with a recap of the previous 2 days, followed by an online SKYPE meeting with partner colleagues at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Also, a series of meetings concerning relevant details concerning our proposal were addressed and tackled. Engaging and fruitful discussions came out of this, including financial aspects of planning for our project ahead. Also, strategies were put in place to ensure that all partners agreed on content to be included for bid writing purposes. Closing comments and conclusions were made by Prof. Wimpenny and partner guests departed.
[Front Left: Dr Nicholas Peters; Prof Peter Rule; Dr Luca Morini; Prof Nolutho Diko; Prof Gus John; Zaira Solomons; Dr Rebekah Smith McGloin; Emmanuel Johnson. Back Left: Dr Marta Vizcaya Echano; Peter Harrison; Dr Virginia King; Dr Alun DeWinter; Dr Anne Adams; Prof Katherine Wimpenny; Dr Ferdie Gerber; Prof Lynn Clouder; Aida Rusaydi; Dr Debra Cureton; Dr Heather Sears. – Photo by Prof Malcolm Tight]
In essence, this 3-day event allowed all of us to learn from each other and it also provided crucial insights into each partner institution’s good practices through knowledge sharing. All participants left displaying a better sense of awareness of research capacity, doctoral development and staff insight. Moreover, colleagues took the opportunity to interact and build valuable networks, including students and their need to learn from leading scholars in their field.